1. The defense is not to be messed with
Cornerback Casey Hayward wasn’t as polite as the rest of his teammates. He didn’t hide the fact that he felt disrespected by the Buffalo Bills’ decision to bench Tyrod Taylor before the game with the Chargers, instead trotting rookie Nathan Peterman onto the field for his first start.
When the news made its way to Los Angeles, people around the Chargers’ facility, like Hayward, wondered if it was the best idea to try a rookie against the Chargers’ dominant pass rushers, as well as their cornerbacks.
It turned out that everyone other than the Bills’ coach knew Peterman’s fate.
The rookie, a victim of tons of pressure from the defensive line and great play from the Chargers’ secondary, had five passes intercepted in the first half.
Hayward, in particular, was terrific and is firmly on track to make his second consecutive trip to the Pro Bowl.
Aside from how well they played on the field, it’s clear this group has developed an attitude with which they can really put their mark on games. With the offense sputtering this season, the Chargers need it.
With tons of swagger and tons of confidence, the Chargers’ defense has put together a nice stretch of dominance and, rookie quarterback or not, they’re a tough task for anyone.
2. The offense finds it balance
The Chargers have had to answer questions about their offensive rhythm since the first week of the season — with good reason.
Hopes were high for the offense, but it’s herked and jerked its way down the field without ever getting to a comfortable, smooth pace. In the first nine games this season, the team has scored on back-to-back possessions only five times.
But energized by an early defensive score and some prime field position, the team and Philip Rivers had their best day of the season.
The Chargers scored on seven straight possessions. They got the ball to their best players in places where they could make plays — particularly Keenan Allen, who was unguardable. They didn’t take any wildly unnecessary risks, they ran the ball with consistency and they marched up and down the field.
It’s unrealistic to expect the Chargers’ offense to look like this every week, but at least on Sunday the team proved that it actually is capable of breaking out like this.
3. The Chargers’ season isn’t dead yet
Winning on Sunday means the Chargers can still say they’re in the playoff hunt without being called delusional. With every team in the AFC West losing on Sunday, including the Chiefs in New York against the Giants, the Chargers gained ground in the division and the conference.
The final wild-card spot, if the season ended now, would go to the .500 Baltimore Ravens. Chasing them are the Bills, who lost by 30 on Sunday, and a cluster of teams at 4-6, including the Chargers.
A win on Thursday against the Cowboys would make the playoffs a very real possibility thanks to the mediocrity of the rest of the conference.